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Kelly’s Task Even Steeper

Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly (Getty)

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By RICK GANO,
AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) The promise generated by Brian Kelly’s arrival at Notre Dame still exists. It’s just been watered down early on by a 1-3 start that has exposed the Fighting Irish’s weaknesses and put them in a hole they weren’t expecting.

Kelly says it’s time to dig out, starting Saturday night back in the coach’s home state when the Irish face Boston College, a team with its own set of problems.

Dating back to last season, Notre Dame has lost seven of eight and another setback would match the skid at the end of last season that led to the ouster of Charlie Weis.

It’s hardly panic time in South Bend especially with a softer schedule ahead – save for games against Southern California and Utah – Kelly has worked through rough patches before in previous successful stops at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan.

“It’s just the expectations are different,” Kelly said Tuesday.

“It’s the same process that we’re going through in terms of building our program and doing the thing that we need to do to win for a long, long period of time.”

The Irish’s running game managed 44 yards last week in a 37-14 loss to Stanford and quarterback Dayne Crist threw an interception that was returned for a TD. He did pass for 304 yards, but most of that was after the game was out of hand.

And during the three losses – last-second heartbreakers to Michigan and Michigan State preceded the Stanford setback – the Irish have yielded 532, 477 and 404 yards, respectively.

Now Notre Dame faces a Boston College team that is switching quarterbacks after it was blanked last week by Virginia Tech with Mike Marscovetra or Chase Rettig taking over for Dave Shinskie.

Kelly’s not expecting big changes in the BC offensive philosophy – no matter the signal caller – and emphasized he’s more concerned with how his team performs and how he gets the Irish ready than what the Eagles try Saturday night.

“Look, I coach and I teach,” he said. “That’s what I do.”

Having Crist take more of a ball carrier’s role this week – he was dinged on a carry against Michigan in the second game of the season – is one way of enhancing the running game.

“There has to be an element in the spread that the quarterback can keep the football at some time, and we’re moving in that direction,” Kelly said. “He’s got to have an element of that within our offensive structure.”

Crist has started four games and is still learning on the job.

He’s passed for 1,155 yards so far, with eight TD passes and three interceptions.

“His interceptions, obviously, are not crazy. They’re higher than I want,” Kelly said.

“It’s the combination of making four or five really, really good plays and maybe one or two not so good plays. So I think where we are in the development is obviously playing more consistently.”

Kelly’s not used to losing and he’s certainly not ready to chuck what he believes in after just four games.

“What allows you to plow through those times is probably your experience, you’re going through it before and having experienced all of those things,” he said.

“You take over a new company as the CEO, and you’re having a rough quarter, you know. You’re going, `OK, I’m not sure what’s coming up here, but I’m going to stick with what I’ve been doing and know that it’s worked in the past and it’s just a matter of time.’ That’s kind of what we’re going through right now.”

Kelly’s evaluation of an offensive line that has three news starters is that it’s been fairly good. But he added that center Braxston Cave needs to work on his cadence and his shotgun snaps, some of which come out below Crist’s knees and force the quarterback to take his eyes off what is in front of him.

Kelly said fifth-year senior center Dan Wenger, who suffered two concussions during preseason camp and has not played this season, will have another evaluation next week before a final decision is made whether he can return or be shut down.

Updated September 28, 2010

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